Drinkin’ Wine

When I start a glass of wine, I see it through to the end. There was a house wine we had in Cosenza, Italy, that seriously tasted like gasoline. I finished it. We were given some apertif in Prague that was like drinking a pine tree. I took the shot. Tonight, I had a wine I could not drink.

I was making my way through a flight of Italian white wines.

Drinking my new favorite from @roccafiore!

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Not this one, unfortunately. (This is my current favorite Italian white wine. It’s amazing. I will never be able to buy it in the U.S.)

Actually, the flight overall was sort of a failure as far as my palate went.

2015 Montetondo Garganega Frizzante (Verona): this was like soda, it’d be refreshing on a hot summer day, but there wasn’t a lot of there there
2015 de Tarczal Pinot Bianco (Trentino): this one sucked all the moisture out of my mouth
2009 Vigna del Malina Pinot Grigio (Venezia Giulia): CHRIST THIS WAS AWFUL. I took a sip, said “GAH,” and then took a second sip because I’m an optimist but NOPE. I was like “can you please pour this out and get me a fresh glass and also some water and maybe you should check if this wine has turned or something because seriously it is FOUL”
2015 Poggio al Tesoro ‘Solosole’ Vermentino (Toscana): this could have been fine, but by this point my ability to taste things was totally shot

Afterwards I was talking with some of the patrons and staff, and I mentioned I hadn’t really been feeling my flight, so they opened up a bottle of something much, much nicer and gave me a glass for free. I guess the half hour and two or three more glasses of water had helped reset my tongue, because this was nice and honey and acid and just such a relief after that Pinot Grigio. Big ups to the bartender for good customer service.

much nicer wine
much nicer wine

So not my most successful night at the wine bar. Didn’t find any new must-haves, but I had a pleasant evening talking to folks and (eventually) drinking a nice glass.

Hollow Heart Vegetable

I am reading up on ong choy, or “hollow heart vegetable.” I went out to a Malaysian restaurant with Lydia and her husband tonight. I have leftovers of these greens which I’m planning to eat tomorrow for breakfast with a fried egg on top. I appreciate the usefulness of a “Class A Noxious Weed” as a food product. Waste not want not!

(I wonder if single people eat this dish on Valentine’s Day. If we don’t, I think we should.)

Future Garden (aka SEEDS!)

Check out what I'll be killing next! #gardening #seeds #hudsonvalleyseedlibrary

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A few months ago, an internet friend I like to refer to as the New Jersey Tomato Girl alerted me to a seed sale at the Hudson Valley Seed Library. I bought the six packets you see up there, and then I told Lydia about it. She bought… well, let’s just say a bunch more. So then we had a cocktail evening and divvied up our bounties. I now have way, way more seeds than space, which is why I’m thinking about submitting an application to join the community garden in my town for next year.

Paul Robeson
Ping Pong
Cosmonaut Volkov
Fox Cherry
Prudens Purple
Japanese Black Trifele
Cherokee Purple
Black Cherry (saved from this year)
Sunset Falls (saved from this year)
some green and red striped tomato we got at the farmer’s market and I saved some seeds from because they were good

Hinkelhatz Hot (New Jersey Tomato Girl says these are fabulous)
Doe Hill
Lilac Bell (saved from this year)

Cherry Bell
Easter Egg (so cute!)
French Breakfast

National Pickling Cucumber (I have already had delicious pickle success with these!)
Harris Model Parsnip
Scarlet Ohno Revival Turnip
Field Peas
Garlic Chives
Butternut Squash (I saved a few of these the last time I roasted the seeds—no they’re not pumpkin seeds but it’s basically the same)

Seriously, where am I going to put all of these? I mean, I’m thinking about how much space my TWO cucumber plants have taken.

It is pretty glorious to imagine all those tomatoes, though.

Improving on an Old Favorite

I think I've found a way to make my buttermilk curry even tastier.

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One of my favorite discoveries from last year’s Blogtober/Blogsgiving binge was my Buttermilk Curry recipe. I’ve made it at least ten times since then, which makes it a pretty successful recipe in my book. I mean, I probably wouldn’t have made it quite so often if I hadn’t kept buying buttermilk, freezing it, forgetting about it, and then rebuying it, compounding the problem—but thankfully the ingredients are pretty cheap. Pork always seems to be on sale, so I just buy whatever chops are close to a pound and cut it into small pieces myself. I’ve also been upping the vegetable content with extra peppers (usually an Anaheim or Pasilla, but tonight’s used the smaller purple peppers from my garden).

When I make the curry with previously frozen buttermilk, it has a tendency to split and look unattractive. Last time I tried using a mixture of buttermilk and plain yogurt, but it still broke. Tonight, I tried sour cream, and BINGO. What a lovely texture! I feel guilty because it’s getting further and further away from the original recipe (which was a mixture of recipes anyway), but damn was it good.

I tweak a lot of recipes over the years, and then I never update my records here. Bad Sarah. But I’m amending this one tonight!

PS this photo looks a lot yellower on my phone (it looked a lot yellower in real life, too). not sure why my laptop screen is washing it out so much. it’s a very yellow-hued curry, thanks to the turmeric. be ye not misled.

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake

Brain hemorrhage of a cranberry upside-down cake.

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So I set out to make a nice autumnal cake for our family gathering today that would use up the cranberries we bought for the dessert I made the last time we had a family gathering. What I made was kind of a horror show. A deliciously tasty horror show, but jesus, look at that photo. It is not pretty.

The buildup to the unmolding was also not pretty. This cake is supposed to bake in a 9-inch cake tin. We had 2 8-inch cake tins that were pretty shallow and that I feared would not hold all the batter. So I opted for a 9 1/2-inch springform pan. DO NOT USE A SPRINGFORM PAN. I wrapped the bottom of the tin in foil to fend off leaking, and…

Springform pan leakage. Crud.

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Well, that clearly worked. Ugh. So maybe half of the caramel made it into/onto the final cake. Plus, my brother and his family were greeted by the smell of burning sugar! How joyous.

That being said, if you use the correct pan, you won’t have any of these issues. I cannot guarantee that the cake won’t still end up looking like surgery gone bad! The cranberries are deliciously tart, and the cake is moist and has a nice little kick of brandy. Feel free to sprinkle a little extra (1-2 Tbsp) over the cake after you unmold it. (We were serving it to kids, so I didn’t.)

nonstick spray
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp honey
10 Tbsp butter, divided (4 and 6)
1 1/2 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp brandy
1/2 cup apple juice (this is just what we had, probably some kind of cran-juice would be nice too)
2 cups (8 oz) fresh or frozen cranberries

Heat oven to 350. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick spray (DO NOT USE A SPRINGFORM PAN) and cover the bottom with parchment paper

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 Tbsp butter. Add the brown sugar, honey, and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring. Once you’re sure all the brown sugar has melted into the mixture, pour into prepared cake pan. Set pan aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Beat 6 Tbsp butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in granulated sugar. Add eggs, then beat in vanilla and brandy. Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed until just blended. Beat in juice, then add remaining flour mixture, beating until just blended.

Add the cranberries to the prepared baking pan and press the fruit into an even layer. Pour the batter on top and use a spatula to gently nudge it into place without disturbing the cranberries underneath. Bake on the center rack (with a sheet pan underneath in case of any overflow, which shouldn’t be a problem because you were smart and did not use a springform pan).

Bake cake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Let cake stand in pan 5 minutes. Invert a serving plate over the cake pan and invert cake onto plate (keeping plate and pan firmly pressed together). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Chelo with Tahdig (Persian Rice with Crispy Crust)

Damn that's pretty. #rice #chelo #tahdig #notreallyiscreweditup

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So I made this a couple days ago, and while it is pretty good and absolutely GORGEOUS (just look at that photo!), it’s… just not what I wanted. I kept wanting it to be Fatty Rice. The only thing the two preparations really have in common are the fact that you get that layer of fried crispy rice which is amaaaaazing but with the Fatty Rice, you get a ton of flavor from the chicken drippings and garlic and onion and everything, and with this, you get mostly rice flavor—which I mean, you’re using basmati, it’s a nice flavor. It’s a much purer, cleaner feeling rice dish. You’re not going to hate yourself as much.

That being said, it’s really oily (and not the deliciously flavored fat of Fatty Rice, just vegetable oil-oily) and the preparation is pretty fussy. I didn’t even try to serve this properly. You’re supposed to flip the pan upside down and get the crunchy layer out in one piece. Since I did this in an cast iron Dutch oven, that was not going to happen.

Recipe included for posterity, but I don’t know if I’ll be making this one again.

2 cups basmati rice
Table salt
1 Tbsp plus 1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt or full-fat sour cream
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 Tbsp butter, cut into 8 cubes
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley


Place rice in fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear. Place rinsed rice and 1 Tbsp salt in medium bowl and cover with 4 cups hot tap water. Stir gently to dissolve salt; let stand for 15 minutes. Drain rice in fine-mesh strainer.

Meanwhile, bring 8 cups water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add rice and 2 Tbsp salt. Boil briskly, stirring frequently, until rice is mostly tender with slight bite in center and grains are floating toward top of pot, 3 to 5 minutes (begin timing from when rice is added to pot).

Drain rice in large fine-mesh strainer and rinse with cold water to stop cooking, about 30 seconds. Rinse and dry pot well to remove any residual starch. Brush bottom and 1 inch up sides of pot with 1 Tbsp oil.

Whisk remaining 1/4 cup oil, yogurt, 1 tsp cumin seeds, and 1/4 tsp salt together in medium bowl. Add 2 cups of the parcooked rice and stir until combined. Spread yogurt-rice mixture evenly over bottom of prepared pot, packing it down well.

Stir remaining 1/2 tsp cumin seeds into remaining rice. Mound rice in center of pot on top of yogurt-rice base (it should look like small hill). Poke 8 equally spaced holes through rice mound but not into yogurt-rice base. Place 1 butter cube in each hole. Drizzle 1/3 cup water over rice mound.

Wrap pot lid with clean dish towel and cover pot tightly, making sure towel is secure on top of lid and away from heat. Cook over medium-high heat until rice on bottom is crackling and steam is coming from sides of pot, about 10 minutes, rotating pot halfway through for even cooking.

Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until rice is tender and fluffy and crust is golden brown around edges, 30 to 35 minutes longer. Remove covered pot from heat and place on damp dish towel set in rimmed baking sheet; let stand for 5 minutes.

If you are brave, attempt to serve this in one piece by flipping over the pot and praying that it all comes out. If you are not, like me, spoon the hill of rice out into a serving platter and mix in 2 Tbsp parsley and salt to taste. Then scoop out the crust in pieces and place atop the rest of the rice, sprinkling with the rest of the parsley and more salt.

A Farewell to Plants

Picked my first tomato of the year! A 6.5oz Big Beef.

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Ah, the heady days of… apparently June 14th. Today I said goodbye to a few plants, including the Beef Beef Tomato plant that gave me the beautiful fruit above. Ever since the weekend rains, its leaves had just gotten limper and limper. There were still a few green tomatoes left on the plant, I picked them in the hope that they’ll turn green on the countertop (or I’ll just pickle them).

Similarly, the shiso plants Lydia had given me. During my trip they had gone to seed, so when I got back I plucked all the flowers. I am guessing this was not the correct thing to do, as they immediately just started shedding leaves everywhere. Some neighborhood animal decided to eat them and promptly puked them up, so I figured it was time for all of that to go. That was an unfun cleaning experience.

The tomatoes in the pots are still kicking—barely. I think it’s about time for them to move on as well. There’s still so much fruit on them, though. I keep waiting for them to finish, but they seem determined to make it until first frost.



(not my photo, credit to danschleifer23 on flickr)

The one thing on my list of “Dutch Food I Want to Eat” I didn’t get to this trip was bitterballen. They’re pub morsels, eaten piping hot with a good grainy mustard.

I found a recipe for them on The Dutch Table that calls them “fried gravy.” Now, gravy is Super-Not-My-Thing, but actually that makes a lot of sense regarding their texture. I think I may have to try to make these, but maybe figure out how to bake them instead… or try and convince my dad to add them to the Hanukkah frying cavalcade.

Baingan Bharta (Roasted Eggplant Curry)

[image: baingan bharta over rice]
[image: baingan bharta over rice]

If you are familiar with how baingan bharta is supposed to look, you may be taken aback by the above photo. I had found a recipe where you made the curry, then turned it into a dip. I did this so I’d have a good bread dipping appetizer for my Lady Evening with Lydia last week. It still tasted good over rice after the dip transformation, though.

Recipe originally from The ABCD’s of Cooking, tweaked a bit so I didn’t have to go to the store.

1 medium eggplant, about 1 pound
1 onion
3 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5-oz. can chopped tomatoes, undrained
2 small chili peppers (an Indian variety would be best, I used my SUPER CHILIS because I still have them in the freezer from last year and they’re still hella potent), chopped if you like spice, halved if you don’t
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
chopped cilantro for garnish

Heat oven to 400. Poke holes in eggplant with a fork, then wrap in foil and roast for an hour. Set aside to cool a bit. When you can handle it, cut in half and scoop out the flesh. Mash with a fork and set aside.

Puree the onion in a blender.

Heat oil over medium heat. Add turmeric, coriander, cumin, and garam masala and bloom in the oil for a minute. Add the onion puree and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and stir until it’s reduced to sort of a pumpkin puree-level of consistency. Add the whole can of tomatoes, chili peppers, and lemon zest. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the eggplant and turn the heat to low. Stir and partially cover the pot. Let cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the lemon juice and add salt to taste. (If you went the halved chili route, fish them out now and discard.) Serve over rice and garnish with chopped cilantro.

Puree curry in a blender with 1 Tbsp tahini and 3 Tbsp plain yogurt. Serve warm with cilantro garnish and your grain-based or vegetable choice of dipping matter.